Gaffarena loses ‘breach of human rights’ case on illegal development

Aqra bil-Malti

Mark Gaffarena – the person at the centre of the Old Mint Street scandal – has lost another case over the brazen illegalities at his Zebbug property, which over 16 years was transformed from a field into stables and a sprawling villa.

Gaffarena has been fined €22,000 by the Planning Authority for ignoring enforcement and stop notices since 2008. He complained about the fine and asked the court to cancel it. His lawyer, Analise Magri, argued that his fundamental rights to a fair trial were breached.

Gaffarena further argued that it was illegal for the Planning Authority to issue the fine and then proceed to enforce it.

The villa in question. Source: Planning Authority

Judge Mark Simiana threw out Gaffarena’s latest plea, stating that the developer should have filed a complaint with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, as established by law.

“The law prescribes the right of the appellant for a remedy in front of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. Once he chose not to exert this right, he now cannot complain of a breach of some fundamental right,” the court declared.

Fine pending since 2004

Gaffarena has been tampering with his illegal residence since 2004 when a 5,200-square-metre area (the size of a football pitch) was illegally developed based on planning permission for stables.

Instead of stables, Gaffarena and his wife Josielle turned the vast area into a residential ranch, with a nearly 400-square-metre villa with a pool, large gardens and even a ‘zoo’ with lamas and zebras and other exotic animals.

In 2008, the Planning Authority tried to stop all this illegal activity. It issued a stop and enforcement notice ordering Gaffarena to demolish everything and return the land to its original use as a field.

Despite this, Gaffarena ignored the law and the Planning Authority and proceeded to accumulate daily fines for his illegal activities.

Part of the extensive gardens. Source: Planning Authority.

Meanwhile, the illegal structures continued to develop, with more and more facilities being added, including the paving of large areas and the construction of animal pens.

In 2020, the Planning Authority rejected Gaffarena’s application to sanction the illegalities.  The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal upheld the decision in 2022.

Then Gaffarena complained about the penalty imposed, but instead of submitting his complaint to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, he took the case to court, claiming that his fundamental rights had been violated.

Inside Gaffarena’s illegal compound. Source: Planning Authority

Meanwhile, Gaffarena tried to get his villa approved through a new loophole earlier this year

Through his architect Reuben Sciortino, Gaffarena submitted a new Planning Authority application proposing to turn his illegal villa into a sheep farm.

This latest application is still under consideration.


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Simon Camilleri
Simon Camilleri
1 month ago

22,000 is nothing to this person. He is only contesting the fines because he can’t be seen to admit wrongdoing – in reality he could pay this from his pocket. Also fighting over such a paltry sum stops him being properly fined thousands PER DAY as it should be, or jailed. In reality we all know that he has the government in his pocket. This is just lip service for the common people.

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Camilleri
Mark Debono
Mark Debono
1 month ago

Playing the sheep farm card that all these crooks play. Demolish the place and invoice him for the cost and that would teach him but I’m sure the government will swallow the sheep farm application and except the envelope that will come with it?

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